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Briefing on Terrorism

Ms Sybille Eschapasse is a legal expert in the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED), which comprises about 40 employees. In her presentation she focused on the milestones in the counter-terrorist (CT) efforts within the framework of the United Nations.

Terrorism has been on the international agenda already since 1934, at the times of the League of Nations. The Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of Terrorism was adopted in 1937 but never came into force. Even now, the definition of terrorism remains the most controversial issue within the United Nations (UN) – there is no common definition that all Member States can agree upon.

The Security Council (SC) plays the central role in the CT efforts. Especially since the attacks of 11 September 2001 the SC passed several crucial resolutions and established new bodies dedicated to the combat of terrorism, which marks a turning point in the UN CT efforts: the Counter-Terrorism Committee (CTC) and CTED. The CTC, founded in 2001, is comprised of all members of the SC. CTED, established in 2004, gathers information on the CT capacity of the UN Member States, suggests improvements to address a state’s shortfall, and helps facilitate the strengthening of the state’s capacity to combat terrorism. Terrorism is a global threat without borders. For this reason CTED works closely with other UN agencies, such as the Security Council, the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the International Maritime Organization (IMO), and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). CTED also reaches out and co-operates with a wide range of regional and sub-regional organisations.

The SC resolutions (for example, S/RES/1373 (2001)) request Member States to implement the measures intended to enhance their legal and institutional ability to fight terrorism domestically and globally. Other resolutions list persons linked to Al Qaeda or the Taliban and requests to freeze their assets and deny safe heavens for them (for example, 1267 (1999) and 1617 (2005)).

An important step in the UN CT efforts is the adoption of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy by the General Assembly in 2006. The adoption of this document marks the first time when all Member States have agreed on one common approach in combating terrorism. It also gives an important signal by strongly and unequivocally condemning terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. The Strategy affirms that terrorism should not be linked to a particular religion and ethnicity and emphasises the human rights. According to the Strategy, Member States are committed to deny financial and other support to terrorist groups or individuals linked to terrorists. States are also not supposed to provide political asylum to terrorists. The new initiatives put forward by the Strategy include:

  • Improving the technical and legal assistance with respect to CT efforts of the states;
  • Addressing the needs of the victims of terrorism and their families;
  • Involving civil society groups and the private sector to prevent and fight terrorism;
  • Preventing digital terrorism;
  • Modernising border and customs controls;
  • Preventing money laundering and financing of terrorism.

Other important elements in the UN CT endeavours are the 16 Counter Terrorism Instruments, which focus on specific aspects of terrorism. The first one was adopted in 1963 – the Convention on Offences and Certain Other Acts Committed On Board Aircraft. Other Instruments include Conventions for the safety of maritime navigation, offshore and continental shelf platforms, and Conventions against taking hostages, hijacking airplanes, terrorist bombings and, most recently, acts of nuclear terrorism (2005: International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism). The adherence of the UN Member States to the UN CT Instruments – meaning the incorporation of the Conventions into the national legislation by Member States – is crucial for the global fight against international terrorism.

The briefing gave a detailed overview about the activities of the United Nations with regard to the global combat of terrorism. Therefore, on behalf of the Delegation of Spain I would like to stress our appreciation to Ms Eschapasse for her excellent briefing.

Alexandra Vasileva